A research team from universities in Nagoya, Japan, has come one step further in developing an effective medicine against the debilitating disorder that is depression.
It was discovered from controlled laboratory experiments that applying stress to a growing mouse led to the deterioration of the genes that control brain activity and its cognitive function. It is thought that understanding the correlation between stress and the effect it has on the brain could aide in heralding a new era of pharmaceutical drugs in the combat against depression and similar related disorders.
The research was conducted by a group made up of Professor Nabeshima from Meijo University, researchers from Nagoya University and other leading members in the field. The team began by selecting a group of mice that were bred in such a way as to induce a propensity towards depression. Some of the mice were raised as a group and some in isolation. The trial was conducted three weeks after the mice had reached their stage of sexual development, or puberty- if one were to compare on the human scale.
To the surprise of the research team, there was no apparent abnormality in the mice that were raised as a group, however those that were raised in isolation showed evident signs of a reduced level of cognitive function and a decrease in brain activity. There were also evident signs of the disorders inherent to depression and schizophrenia. From their analysis, the chemical hormone dopamine, which acts to stimulate the brain and thus increase activity, appeared significantly reduced.
Afterwards, the mouse specimens that were bred in isolation were once again reinserted into a group environment. However there were no signs of an improvement in their condition or a return to their previous state. On the other hand, by suppressing the secretion of the hormone brought about by stress, it was possible to prevent depression related symptoms completely.
As a result of this research, the group was able to conclude that stress has a direct influence over the genes that regulate the brain’s activity. Professor Nabeshima excitedly admits, “From these findings, we now understand what triggers depression. I have great hope that this discovery will help in the development of a new set of effective medicines for the treatment of depression related symptoms.”